By Bill Rojas, SAP Digital

This is a story about creative collaboration. It’s about how a couple of researchers working together to explore problems and potential solutions then invented a product that supports their own collaborative approach – and have made it available to all, for uses from product development to sales.

Chapter 1: the entrepreneurs – in the beginning

Let me introduce Patrick Hennig and his partner Philipp Berger of neXenio, based in the heart of Berlin, Germany. Affiliated for nine years with the Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI), an incubator environment, the two collaborated on any number of technology projects ranging from Big Data analysis to government security. SAP HANA, the breakthrough in-memory platform, was one signature innovation that benefited from their contributions.

Chapter 2: the concept – design thinking

So how do creative people like Patrick and Philipp typically brainstorm? In a business setting, they meet together in a big office or conference room and use a whiteboard to throw ideas at the wall. They scribble on the board, attach sticky notes to capture related thoughts, draw lines to map interrelationships, erase outliers they agree to reject, and circle the kernels they’ve identified as having true potential.

That’s how their colleagues Raja Gumienny, Lutz Gericke, and Matthias Wenzel invented the “Tele-Board,” part of a joint design thinking research program between HPI in Potsdam and Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

The research team tried out different physical setups with cameras and whiteboard hardware, but the corporate world would require a simpler setup. After Lutz and Raja left HPI, Patrick and Philipp took over to transfer the research project into the cloud, using newly available technologies including HTML5 and WebRTC,

(If you’re not a software developer: HTML5 is a markup language for presenting content on the Web. WebRTC, which stands for Web Real-Time Communication, supports applications for voice calling, video calling, and file sharing without the need for plugins. I had to look it up.)

I bet by now you know where this story is going.

Chapter 3: the technology – design thinking, virtually

But what if there was a way to duplicate that process virtually and make it available for more people working on the same project? What if there was a way to erase the limitations of borders, time zones, and distance with a collaborative whiteboard in the cloud? And how could that work?

A product was born. Called neXboard, it’s captured the essence of the brainstorming process, enabling people to work together at a distance with the feeling of being in the same room. You can literally see other participants, hear them speak, watch them write on the whiteboard, observe their body language, pick up on their emotions, and speak up with direct feedback. On the virtual whiteboard, you can write down thoughts, post sticky notes, change the color to show who posted it, and move them around. And then – one of the best parts – your team can capture the session and archive it in a secure data center, where it’s accessible at any time simply by clicking on a link.

Chapter 4: the real world – marketing

Yes, but is it marketable? “Even though our orientation was research and development, we were pretty confident that it would have wide appeal,” Patrick told me. “And people are using it even beyond creative collaboration; for example, an SAP sales rep located in Barcelona recently used it for a customer meeting in Stockholm.”

And now neXboard is available on SAPStore.com. That was an obvious match, since neXenio emerged from the HPI, which is affiliated with SAP. (Hasso Plattner is one of the company’s founders.) Patrick noted that he attended the SAPPHIRE NOW conference in Orlando last year, and met someone who put him in touch with the SAP Digital team that’s responsible for SAP Store. SAP Store is our online marketplace offering software, education, and data from both SAP and third parties. Prices are PayPal and credit-card-friendly, and you can try and buy with a simple click-through process.

Check them out on the Store. Who knows, maybe your team will come up with the next breakthrough.

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2 Comments

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  1. Matthias Schmitt

    Hello,

    very nice article and I can confirm the value of the tool for any kind of collaboration.

    Even beyond design thinking we introduced the HPI Teleboard and now NexBoard already in November 2011 and still using it in my global business unit with 90 people spread across 6 locations and time zones (Shanghai, Bangalore, Dubai, Walldorf, Milano, Palo Alto).

    Btw, the NexBoard an also support increased effinciency in onsite meetings and workshops when it gets combined with design thinking principles like brief ideation spots, stay focused, build on ideas of others, etc. The whiteboard is persistent and still editable later on, in difference to static pictures of hardware whiteboards with one-time stickies clued on.

    Happy to recommend the NexBoard and change the way you meet and work in teams.

    Best regards,

    Matthias

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    1. Bill Rojas Post author

      Halo Matthias,

      Thank you for the note and for adding the additional information to neXenio’s great innovation. As part of the SAP Digital team, I’m managing the launch of 3rd party offerings, we were very impressed with neXboard and that is why we on board them on the Store. We are going to work closely with them to make them successful. And BTW, they are interested in going to TechEd, Las Vegas and Barcelona in case you want to catch up with them again.

      All the best,

      Bill

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